By itself, the night sky is a swirling vast ocean, humbling in its immense width and breath, equal parts captivating with its unfathomed depth, and beautifully patterned by evocative brushes and strokes.
It’s quite a marvel, and yet, there are very few moments we truly sit around to contemplate its expansiveness.
In the same vein, we usually forget to think a little more about the friends we surround ourselves with. It’s easy to underestimate their influence and overestimate their worth.
We seek friends that while similar to us, also fulfill psychological needs we unconsciously desire. The meek seeks to follow, the extrovert enjoys pushing ahead, and there are other carded stereotypes lived out in friendships.
Seen that way, friendships are our own exclusive street theatres, designed to naturally enforce group superiority, and for our ego to play out certain roles. Friendships in truth, are never equal.
That in no way diminishes the value of the friendship – each individual brings something different to the performance. We are all sock puppets doing the same shadow dance – it is the give and take we have always understood implicitly.
Yet, each subtle push and pull in a friendship has an immeasurable impact on us. The small, quiet nods given by our friends shape our beliefs and behaviour. Anyone who’s been in a class knows how even peers can sculpt our attitude, often without our knowledge.
Even a tactical silence, the evasive cold shoulder, sets us on a rout of pessimism – we alter our behaviour to try and make sense of it, perhaps even cry. Who has not?
And if we imperceptibly forget to look up at night, what can be said about how we view our friends? At the least, the night sky is unchanging, unyielding and uncommunicative. It only offers us an imaginary pillow for our dreams.
The realisation that friendships are more deeply influential – perhaps monumentally so – than we imagined, should mean we are entitled to a personal selfishness in imposing a highly restrictive entry.
This does not suggest arrogance, condescension, elitism, or any other form of tribal grouping. Rather, we should seek to think about what we can offer to others, and what others are willing to give in return.
It is possible we have overlooked some truly great people in our lives because most of the time, we really like it when our friends say the things we want to hear. It’s harder to appreciate those who hold differing viewpoints or repeatedly challenge (or topple) our positions.
A truly great friendship, or relationship, requires active and reflective partners who clearly know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, who with honesty, can easily relate what and why they value this private theatre they have built.
So, have you thought about what friendship means to you?